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“but even the two rough days found her on deck, reveling like a released bird in her returned feeling of happiness and freedom, that blessed sense of belonging to herself alone and not to a race.”

nella larsen, quicksand (1928)

i don’t belong anywhere. i’m an outcast. a mongrel by choice never willing to fully blend in. always a minority; even within a minority. i don’t have a home but i long for one. to have a home is to be accepted. but how can it happen when i refuse to be defined by my background. is it pride? stupidity? survival instinct? people think they know you if they know what passport you hold. or because they know someone else with the same passport. they expect you to be a certain way. ‘where are you from?’ is a question people expect a simple, clear-cut answer to. no thinking involved – it should come as fast as a lightning. right there, you are sloppily scooped in a mental sack and from then on whatever you do you are an X from Y. you’re figured out. if your answer is complicated though, you risk coming off as a weirdo, a freak. after all, we only asked out of politeness. we didn’t want any of your politics. because in the end, it is about politics.

we are taught to be patriotic. we are taught to want to belong and fit in. those are positive values per se, no doubt. people do need stability to be able to stay sane. a sense of attachment helps; it can be beautiful. but only when it’s genuine. alas, those values often leave no space for maneuvering. in fact, the biggest pressure on identity frequently comes from within the community you are supposed to belong to. you’re butchered into aligning your feelings and senses with the mainstream. if you don’t, you’re a traitor. a show-off. an abject mutt. scum even. someone not to be trusted. a caricature of a person to be despised and ridiculed. that’s what national identity politics routinely translates into at the grass-roots level. or sometimes that’s what it is officially.

the very idea of identifying with others based on nationality, race, or anything else you are born into and have no initial control over, leaves me gasping for air. i want to be ME above everything else. i want my set of values to be the signifier of my identity – not my passport. i am a dignified, evolving unity of multiple ideas and attitudes about life. i decide what to feel and what is good for me. i don’t deny my background. i don’t want to forget or relinquish it. it is part of me but it shouldn’t hold absolute power over me. i am a cultural hybrid. i am not torn; i am not a victim. i am to be reckoned with.

so where are YOU from?

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